About CFI

History and Overview

In 1987, Patti Herbst’s first child, Justin, was born 10 weeks premature, suffered a severe stroke, and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP). Despite profound quadriplegia, Patti believed Justin could learn independence. Years later, frustrated by lack of improvement in the traditional medical therapy model, and without knowing much about Conductive Education, she enrolled him in a Canadian program. After 5 intensive weeks, at age 10, Justin learned to sit independently – a skill most babies learn at 7 months. This experience changed Justin’s life and Patti’s vision for children like him. Patti now had the evidence and tools to prove children with physical disabilities could develop new neuro–pathways for movement given the opportunity.

Committed to sharing Conductive Education with other families, in 1998, Patti and her husband, Chuck Herbst, founded the Center for Independence through Conductive Education, an Illinois Not–For–Profit Corporation under section 501 (c) (3) of the Illinois Revenue Code. The Center began by serving 6 children at a summer camp based on CE principles and has now grown to serve over 150 children a year at 3 different locations in the Chicago area.

Since our onset, the dedicated Board of Directors have been committed to improving the lives of children with physical disabilities, recognizing that poverty and lack of motor training services can be devastating for a child with cerebral palsy. Lack of therapy services can result in permanent physical deformities limiting the child’s ability to move, learn and live independently – it can also result in a lifetime of physical pain. Imagine sitting in a wheelchair all day — without moving about, standing or shifting – it can wreak havoc on the body!

The Center considers it an honor to be the stewards of the wonderful donations we receive. The audit of our December 31, 2012 Financial Statements has been completed and we are very pleased to report that 91% of every dollar we spent was on Programs and Equipment that serve children with physical disabilities and approximately 9% was spent on Management/General and Fundraising Expenses. During 2012 the Center provided over $720,000 in charitable services to families to ensure full participation despite financial or insurance limitations. To obtain a complete copy of the Center’s Financial Statements, please contact Patti Herbst.


CFI Staff member working with a childOur Staff

Our talented staff members work together to provide a comprehensive program to promote confidence and motivation in every child, so that self–care and mobility skills are achieved to the best of their ability. All staff lead and work in the group, bringing unique contributions from their specialized disciplines.


The conductor is a professional who has a 4–year college degree from an accredited university program The Peto Institute, Birmingham University, Aquinas College. This specialized training focuses specifically on the complex development of children with motor disabilities, which promotes independence in self–care, mobility, social and academic skills.

Occupational Therapists

The OT has a master’s degree, and offers children techniques to improve upper limb function such as fine motor programming, splinting, and strengthening activities with an emphasis on self–care skills in the areas of dressing, eating, toileting, and grooming. Therapists have the opportunity to attend a CE certificate program at Governor State University.

Physical Therapists

The PT has a master’s degree and offers children mobility and gross motor training with an emphasis on correct form, strengthening and stretching techniques, orthotic and wheelchair recommendations, and postural techniques to promote correct breath control and minimize abnormalities such as scoliosis. Therapists have the opportunity to attend a CE certificate program at Governor State University.

Physical Therapy Assistant

The PTA has an associate’s level degree and performs a variety of tasks under the direction and supervision of physical therapists including, assisting in the development of treatment plans, carrying out routine exercises, and assisting in modifications to the treatment course of individual children. Therapists have the opportunity to attend a CE certificate program at Governor State University.

Classroom Aides

The classroom aides help prepare and clean up rooms. They are also responsible for facilitating the Conductive Education program, through the constant, direct supervision of the therapists and conductors.